Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Nov-Dec 2018

Charlotte’s Web

Brands must learn to plot their influencer strategies much more carefully.

Do you know that the ‘www’ in the internet URL stands for World Wide Web? And no, that is not a piece of information I got off the internet. The internet is a wonderful and marvellous thing, but it is also a dangerous place, thanks to the dark web and the deep web. Then there is also the chance that a team who copies a concept can be caught out. There is, however, another dangerous type of web, the one that brand and digital managers try to weave when it comes to promoting their products and services.

If going viral is a vanity metric that has brand managers salivating, PR and Key Opinion Leader (KOL) campaigns are yet another ego stroking exercise. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are egos at play on both sides of the equation – the agency/brand manager as well as the blogger, and sparks can fly if the key element of respect is not present. The commercialised reality of KOLs and bloggers and the rush of companies wanting to jump on the bandwagon and conduct a blogger meetup for six hours is not a local issue, but a global one. The problem is the same; the degrees of severity vary.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries appear to be a seller’s market. Instagrammers sell their services to the highest bidder with the fees of popular influencers reaching thousands of dollars. However, it also appears that soon, some sort of action will be taken as brands realise that the rates are too high. In Pakistan, the situation is the opposite, with a skew towards the demand side, as brands often opt to pay bloggers not with cash, but with gifts or ‘exposure’. Brands only pay money to those influencers they believe will give them a return. Mostly, the return is predetermined, as the criteria selection for influencers is usually the number of their followers.

The logic is that the larger the number of followers, the greater the reach. Yet, as with most things in life, the relationship between followers and reach is not that simple. Even if it is a matter of direct cause and effect, there needs to be a discussion to evaluate the importance of other factors such as relevance and the quality of the content. There is a lot of talk about content and how it is king, but in the realm of blogger campaigns, the value-addition of good content seems to be undervalued.

Navigating the realm of bloggers campaigns can be a difficult task, but it’s not impossible and you often find lessons in the most unlikely of places. Like Charlotte’s Web, a story I read as a child.

Let’s take the scenario of a blogger with good content as well as good writing and photography skills, but without the reach levels most brands desire. Should a brand or agency take a chance on this blogger? Yes, if the blogger can produce relevant content and is creative. Be it a brand or a blogger, substance is required in the long run.

I remember when Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera shot to fame at the same time in the mid-nineties. Britney’s song Baby One More Time was, as far as I know, an organic hit. Aguilera’s Genie In A Bottle had a catchy tune, but I read in TIME magazine that in order to create a hit, Aguilera’s label paid young Americans to call up radio stations and request her song. The increase in requests led to more popularity, and the rest is history.

Navigating the realm of bloggers campaigns can be a difficult task, but it’s not impossible and you often find lessons in the most unlikely of places. Like Charlotte’s Web, a story I read as a child.

The story is about a pig named Wilbur who is the runt of the litter and the farmer decides to kill him for meat. The pig is helpless, but finds help from an unlikely source; a friendly spider named Charlotte. Charlotte comes up with a plan to save the pig by trying to convince the farmer’s family that Wilbur is quite special. She uses her web to create the words ‘Some Pig’. Her strategy works and the farmer, and soon, the whole neighbourhood, is buzzing with the news about how Wlibur is no ordinary pig. However, Charlotte is aware that one miracle will not be enough, so she keeps creating words, each time increasing the intensity of the claims. First ‘terrific’, then ‘radiant’ and lastly ‘humble’. The last message is needed to make sure that no matter what, Wilbur will not become bacon. What lessons can we learn from this with relation to blogging and reach campaigns?

The first lesson is that Charlotte is smart enough to know that only one message would not do the job. Marketers need to realise that their brand-blogger relationship should be long-term and not a six-hour flash in the pan. Charlotte doesn’t, from the get go, choose superlatives of the highest order; she knows that building up intensity is the best strategy and helps lend credibility. She chooses to pique interest in the beginning and then gradually expand on it. Marketers, on the other hand, want to immediately push out the best reviews and messages to create hype, but later, they find it tough to maintain the momentum.

The second lesson is that Charlotte does what she does not for monetary gain, but because she believes in the product – Wilbur. In a world full of the paid and planted, this may seem hard to digest, but it is always best for marketers to work with bloggers who value both the product and their work; in that way, they can provide quality and more importantly, honest endorsements.

The third lesson is that it was a phenomenal task for Charlotte to write those words (she was a spider after all). This is a point brand managers and agencies need to realise – blogging requires hard work, effort and skill and they should not undermine or be unappreciative towards the work performed by bloggers. In fact, they need to do more than simply appreciate; they need to respect and value their bloggers.

The fourth lesson is that marketers need to be humble and patient like Wilbur was. Every product has its own unique value to offer. To stand out, they need to identify what will resonate with the audience and prove effective in the long run.

Yes, blogger outreach can be difficult but in the end it is not as difficult as a spider trying to save the life of a pig.

Tyrone Tellis is a marketing professional working in Pakistan.